Hemp and its related products have had a rocky road to (still pending) mainstream approval over the last several hundred years. Hemp itself is a tough, fibrous material that can be good for a variety of industrial and professional uses, but it saw a decline in popularity with the rise in production of other materials like lumber and advanced metal products. Marijuana, a drug that appears near the top of almost every major country’s banned substances list, contains a psychoactive compound that stimulates the brain’s pleasure centers, causing feelings of euphoria, while also impairing nervous functions, resulting in sleepiness, increased reaction times, impairment of short term memory function, and other effects both positive and negative. Beginning in the early 20th century a wave of bannings occurred across the globe, starting in Jamaica – of all places – and lasting throughout the entire hundred year span, until, beginning in the year 2000, a similar wave of legalization began to spread. Even so, marijuana is generally considered to be a dangerous or at least seriously prohibited narcotic, with penalties as severe as death in many areas of the world levied for possession, sale, or transport of the drug.
As the tide of popular opinion begins to change, there is a relatively new player on the scene: Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, has been around for just as long as the hemp plant (banned for recreational use for the first time in the 14th century, as it turns out), but has gotten relatively little attention until recently, when its popularity has exploded. A bevy of new companies have sprung up offering CBD products in every conceivable form, from edibles and gummies to vape pens to essential-oil style products. Currently the most popular form of CBD is its oil form. But what is CBD, why CBD, and why now, all of a sudden, when varieties of marijuana and cannabis have already been so popular and well-known for hundreds of years?
There are a few good answers to that question. The first is the very wave of re-legalization that began around the turn of the century, almost twenty years ago now. As people clamor for legal marijuana for recreational and medicinal uses, dispensaries and growing operations have sprung up in step to create multi-billion dollar industries in practically the blink of an eye. But the psychoactive component is just a small part of the plant, with plenty left over after the processing is done. CBD producing compounds make up a majority of what’s left, and by turning CBD oil into a marketable product in its own right, hemp growers can increase their margins and cut down on waste in the production process.
Another reason is the recent popularity of oil products and natural medicines in their own right. Products like essential oils have become infamous for their multilevel marketing strategies and purported various health benefits, and as healthcare prices continue to rise while trust in pharmaceutical corporations plummets as a result of the opioid crisis, consumers are increasingly looking for alternative medicines to treat their ailments. Finally, as hemp products slowly increase in mainstream acceptability, scientists are finding more opportunities to conduct research to find hitherto unknown health benefits of these substances.
Either way, CBD oil is here to stay, and every day there seems to be more press pushing it into the mainstream. Most significantly, the TSA recently (and quietly) changed their policy on the transportation of CBD products on airplanes, largely due to the FDA’s clearance of a product containing CBD for the treatment of seizures. It’s a small step but a very important one, because so far all cannabis-related legalization in the United States has occurred at the state level, with the federal government still insistent that cannabis is a dangerous drug with no potential medicinal uses; and yet, two federal agencies have discreetly begun to open the door for those very medicinal uses.
While the government grinds its ever-slowly-turning gears, the celebrity and fashion worlds are miles ahead, attempting to outpace the current consumer trends. A famous professional golfer has stepped forward to endorse the compound for its purported pain relief and inflammation reducing properties. And yet, the line remains conspicuously drawn: the golfing association accepts the use of CBD, but warns its players against the use of products without FDA approval (which still describes all but one CBD product on the market) and cautions them that THC is still off-limits.
Finding the best CBD oil has become easier and easier, with outlets as mainstream as Sephora now offering oil-based CBD products with eye-watering levels of CBD concentration, for use in alleviating headaches. As it stands, the government is still in control, and the official government line is that any cannabis-derived product is dangerous and illegal. And yet, federal agencies are beginning to allow some of these products through the door. How far that allowance will go remains to be seen.